Generic meds work just as well; be vigilant against fake medicines
With the surge in COVID-19 infections fueled by the Omicron variant came the observed increased demand for paracetamol and other medicines for flu-like symptoms in the country. Posts circulating online stirred netizens to hoard, panic-buy, or make unnecessary purchases of such medicines even though they are not sick or not even experiencing any symptoms.
As usual, pharmacies play an essential role in any local response to contain the COVID-19 spike. Community pharmacists not only serve as the first point of contact for those with health-related concerns; they also play a major part in ensuring that appropriate stocks are available in the pharmacy and prevent their overprice.
Recently, a local pharmaceutical giant issued an advisory on the shortage of its medicine brands. Other pharmacies have given their customers lists of “out of stock” medicines. At this point, it is critical for the general public to be disciplined, resourceful, and vigilant since the country may potentially face a wave of infection twice as fast as that caused by the Delta variant last year. And who knows, we might also face “flurona,” an influenza-COVID double infection recently reported by Israel.
Most of the medicines in short supply are branded and over-the-counter drugs sold without prescription. Topping the list is paracetamol, a fever-lowering medicine that can be used to cope with COVID-19 symptoms, or for pain or fever after vaccination. Also on the list are other supportive medicines that most likely contain paracetamol, such as Decolgen, Neozep, Bioflu, and Alaxan. (Warning: Potential overdose may occur when a person takes various medicines containing paracetamol.)
Resorting to generic versions of paracetamol and flu-related medicines can help us fight the growing threat of shortage. Generic medicines work in the same way as their branded counterparts and provide the same benefits. While a branded drug is named by the company that produces it, generic medicine is named after the active ingredient/s in it. Generic medicines can be marketed under different brand names but contain the same active ingredient/s as the branded ones. Also, generic medicines are much cheaper because they are devoid of massive advertisements, and they have undergone the same compliance with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The public is also advised against buying medicines online or at unauthorized establishments. Counterfeit or fake medicines are deliberately and fraudulently produced and/or mislabeled with respect to identity and/or source to make them look like the genuine products. They are not registered with the FDA and did not go through various tests to confirm their quality, safety, and efficacy.
To identify fake medicines, the physical aspects serve as the fastest indicators of authenticity, such as the color, size, weight, and design of both the drug and its packaging. Preferably, the medicine in question should be compared side by side with authentic medicine. It is also advisable to examine the foil and other parts of the packaging such as logo, lot/batch number, expiration date, and security features such as a hologram. Other red flags can be wrong spelling or questionable directions, and if the manufacturer’s address is trackable. Also, fake medicines have a strange smell or taste, they break easily, and once taken, an unexpected reaction or feeling may occur.
The public should think twice if the price is lower than usual, and report to the authorities any suspicious products.
TERESA MAY BANDIOLA
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